Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Solutions for Expanding the Playoffs

Over the past week there have been multiple reports that Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Union are considering expanding the baseball postseason as early as the 2012 season.  This could be done by adding other wild card teams and expanding the division series round to a best of seven format. 

The AP article sites the reasons for doing this as the MLB playoffs have less team than any other major sport.  The NBA and the NHL have the greatest amount of teams that qualify for the postseason with 16 making it in each sport.  The NFL is only slightly below that mark at 12 teams.

Rob Neyer of ESPN.com looked at one impact of a longer season being that the regular season might have to be shortened.  With a longer postseason the first question from owners and players is what happens to the regular season schedule.  If the regular season gets cut then every team that doesn't make the playoffs loses revenue from those games.  The playoffs already seem to go much too far into November.  His solution is a great one.  He writes that to solve the revenue and regular season problem the solution would be to have teams play more double-headers.  This would allow for teams to get more games in during the season and still finish with enough time to play an expanded playoff.

Bill Plaschke of the LA Times wrote a list of ways to improve the postseason that might help MLB and the players union with their decision.  His list looks like this: 1. Stretch the first round, 2. Shorten the regular season, 3. Take the weekends off, 4. Play more day games, and 5. Enough of the champagne.

Here is my list of the five things that what I would like to see happen with the regular season and the postseason:

Regular Season:
1. Leave the regular season at 162 games
2. Play some double-headers

Post-Season:
3.  Make the Division Series round a best of seven series
4.  Decrease the amount of time between postseason games
5.  Leave eight teams in the postseason

Leave the regular season at 162 games
Over the past decade the Twins have won six division titles in nine seasons.  Think back to how many of those seasons that the division hasn't been decided until the last week or even the last day.  In 2009 and 2008 the Twins had to go all the way to a game 163 to determine to outcome of the Central Division.  In 2006 the Twins didn't clinch the division crown until after their final game was over.  If the season is shortened, moments like this won't occur because there wouldn't be as many games for teams to come back from the dead.  I am also a big fan of the 162 game schedule.  By having that many games a true division champion can be determined.  Teams can make runs over stretches of the season but the strongest team usually prevails with the current regular season format.

Play some double-headers
As I wrote earlier Rob Neyer offered this as his solution to having to decrease the regular season.  As a fan I think this would be great to see.  I would love to be able to spend an entire day at Target Field watching the Twins play two games.  I know that scheduling these double-headers could be a nightmare.  But by playing these double-headers the regular season wouldn't have to be shortened.  Teams carry enough pitchers to cover the innings that would need to be pitched.  It could also make it fun to see what kind of line-ups managers can create to try and sweep a double-header.  Not an easy task by any means.

Make the Division Series round a best of seven series
As Bill Plaschke wrote in his piece that I referenced earlier, "The Minnesota Twins were one of the pulses of the long baseball summer, yet they were knocked out in a heartbeat."  Does this mean that if the Twins had a seven games series that they would have been able to come-back against the Yankees?  No, probably not.  I feel that in a seven game series the best team usually comes out on top.  There are always exceptions to the rule, but in a five game series a lot of things can happen.  Losing one game in a five game series can destroy a team.  In a seven game series one loss is something that can be overcome.

Decrease the amount of time between postseason games
MLB doesn't need to release the dates of every game in advance.  They should allow for series to start earlier if the previous round is completed faster than expected.  Find a way so that teams aren't waiting around for a week to find out who their opponent will be.  MLB seems to be trying to create the perfect schedule for the television networks.  The catch 22 is the perfect schedule for the TV networks isn't the perfect schedule for Major League Baseball.  By the time the World Series rolled around this year some fans might have started to lose interest.  It is a long drawn out affair that needs to be compressed.

Leave eight teams in the postseason
One of the great parts of the baseball postseason is the fact that it is a challenge to get into the tournament.  In the other major sports it's not as big of a deal to make the playoffs.  In the NBA and NHL over half of the teams in the league make the playoffs.  At the end of a long baseball season there is nothing more gratifying than your favorite team qualifying for the playoffs.  In recent years Twins fans have become accustom to their team making the playoffs.  The same story isn't true in other baseball markets.  Making the playoffs should be an accomplishment not something that is given out to half the teams.

What are your thoughts?  Should baseball expand the playoffs?  Should the regular season be shorter?  Leave a comment and start the discussion.

1 comment:

M said...

I'm in favor of a slightly shorter regular season, perhaps 150 games. The end of the season drama could still occur. It would just happen in games 140-150, instead of 152-162. If the Twins or any other team can't get their act together in 150 games, so be it.
There may be some teams that are capable of making a great late season run in 200 games. Should we lengthen the season for them?

And double-headers? I don't think so. Today's fans have less time and shorter attention spans.